A man who thought he was fighting a werewolf when he killed a stranger in Old Town Alexandria last summer pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on Monday.
Pankaj Bhasin, 34, will now go to Central State Hospital in Petersburg for treatment.
The plea comes months after a jury deadlocked on whether to find Bhasin guilty of murder in the death of Bradford Jackson, 65. Five doctors separately diagnosed Bhasin with bipolar 1 disorder with psychotic features, and prosecutors did not put on an expert to counter testimony that he was suffering from severe delusions at the time of the attack.
Instead, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David Lord argued at trial that Bhasin was intelligent enough to fake his symptoms and emphasized the viciousness of the deadly assault.
After the mistrial, the commonwealth’s attorney’s office ordered its own psychiatric evaluation, and that doctor agreed Bhasin was clinically insane when he killed Jackson.
In light of that conclusion, Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter said it would be unethical to put Bhasin on trial again.
Bhasin drove from his New Jersey home to the D.C. area early on the morning of July 13, according to testimony at trial. After being kicked out of the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown for odd behavior, he made his way to Old Town, where he followed Jackson to an upstairs window store. He later told psychiatrists he thought Jackson, a shop worker, might know something about boxes of human DNA.
When Jackson confronted Bhasin, Bhasin beat him, stabbing him 53 times with a box cutter and gouging his eyes, according to testimony.
Bhasin left the building covered in blood and naked from the waist down. He got into the back seat of a Mercedes-Benz car parked in front of the store and stayed there until police arrived.
Bhasin told police and doctors that Jackson, a stranger, began turning into a werewolf during their encounter. Bhasin said he had to kill Jackson to “save 99 percent of the moon and planets.”
Friends and family testified that Bhasin had been a successful, happy person. He was living in Washington and working as a risk analyst before leaving his job to travel the world; he returned to New Jersey about eight months before the attack to help take care of his sick father.
It was then that those around him noticed he began acting bizarrely. He was drinking his own urine and gasoline and would claim to be the Hindu god of death Yama.
Bhasin was hospitalized in June 2018 after attacking his parents and responded to medication. He was released after six days, quickly deteriorated and then disappeared. His parents were looking for him when the police called to say he was in custody in Virginia.
Jackson had moved to Old Town from Michigan 30 years ago to raise his son and became a well-loved fixture in the community. His brother described him as a “hopeless romantic.”
This was a “very, very mentally ill man,” defense attorney Peter Greenspun said at trial, “in conflict with a very nice and productive and meaningful person in the community.”